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As marketers, we have a lot on our plates at all times. Our teams don’t just execute campaigns; they fuel successful launches and grow customer loyalty.
And that’s what makes it challenging.
There’s always so much to do. So many concurrent projects and moving pieces. When you’re in charge of getting things done, it’s easy to feel disorganized.
What is everyone working on? Why did we miss a deadline last month, and what can we do to prevent it? Can we streamline our tasks instead of trying to do everything at once?
Take a deep breath. There’s a way to keep all your marketing projects on track with a simple, but powerful method: a marketing kanban board.
As you’ll soon see, this is a gamechanger. In this guide, you’ll learn:
Kanban boards are one of the concepts in agile marketing, an approach that can help you do your best work. If that sounds like something you need, check out our Agile Marketing Guide for a deep dive on all things agile.
Make getting started with kanban and agile marketing easy with this collection of templates:
A kanban board is a visual overview of steps involved in a project. It enables you to move projects through workflow stages, from left to right (from beginning to end).
The concept of kanban was introduced by Toyota in 1940s when their manufacturing teams started using cards to signal that part of a production line needed more parts. The name kanban makes sense—the Japanese word “kanban” translates to “billboard” or “signboard.”
Marketing teams are packed with diverse skill sets and manage multiple projects all at once. To hit their deadlines, they need a strong, reliable hub of everything going on.
A marketing kanban board is a framework within agile marketing, which focuses on rapid iteration and data-backed decision-making. Here’s how you and your team can work better, faster, and at less cost thanks to kanban.
Your marketing team’s kanban workflow is made of three essential elements:
Features available for each kanban building block depends on your tool of choice. This is how a kanban board looks like in CoSchedule’s Kanban Project Dashboard:
Kanban boards aren’t just a cool-looking tool for managing your marketing projects. Here are some tangible benefits that come with managing your projects visually in a kanban workflow.
If you’re sending emails or Slack messages just to check in on a project with a team member, you’ll love a marketing kanban board.
Consider this: sending that message requires you to step away from your work and makes your team member step away from theirs. This jumping between tasks is called context switching, and it can take up to 25 minutes to resume a task after interruption.
In other words, you may want to move the project forward, but your checking in actually delays it more.
Kanban board is a brilliant alternative. At a glance, you can view where each project is in real-time and without clogging anyone’s inbox.
Let’s say your writers are super productive and deliver their drafts ahead of time. However, you miss your blog post publish date almost weekly. How can that be?
With a visual overview of all workflow stages, you can see exactly why that happens. A bottleneck happens when a stage that gets more requests than it can process on time, which makes projects pile up and block your workflow.
This is how a bottleneck could look like on a marketing kanban board:
Your board revealed that your editors get new drafts for editing quicker than they edit existing ones. To avoid missing deadlines because of this bottleneck, you could now:
You can also prevent future bottlenecks by implementing work in progress (WIP) limits. WIP limits are exactly what they sound like: they limit the number of projects in each workflow stage. They’ll give your team a sharper focus and reduce handoff delays.
According to Harvard Business Review, 65% of senior managers say meetings keep them from completing their own work, and 71% said meetings are unproductive and inefficient. We assume it’s not too different outside of management, too.
This is a glass-half-full situation: it means we can do meetings better.
Kanban system gives everyone on the team a transparent overview of what’s going on, so you can run standing meetings that let your team share:
As a result, you’ll have short, efficient team meetings that let everyone focus on deep work. Nothing will slip through the cracks, and work will get shipped on time.
You can have your marketing kanban board in various software tools, like task management software, a project management platform, and more.
You can also do it in a tangible form with a whiteboard and sticky notes, but as you’ll soon see, there are limitations to that. Online kanban boards are the only ones offering the below benefits.
In your marketing kanban board, you’ll want to…
A drag-and-drop capability is the signature feature of any kanban board. When your customer newsletter is written and ready for design, you’ll want to move it there in under a second.
A clear sense of ownership is essential to move projects forward on time. Who owns the project in which stage of the workflow?
This is particularly important if you have multiple people doing similar tasks, such as a team of graphic designers. Card ownership creates transparency and sets clear expectations.
Here’s what card ownership looks like in CoSchedule’s Kanban Project Dashboard:
Card ownership doesn’t mean no one else is involved in the process. This is where contributors and conversations are a vital kanban board capability.
Once you have the right contributors added to a project, you’ve also created a space for project-specific discussion, comments, and notes. Contributors can exchange feedback and suggestions quickly without clogging up their email inboxes or Slack notifications.
Checklists ensure no steps in the process are missed. You can create your project workflow once and turn it into a reusable template. In CoSchedule, you can do this with Task Templates and create as many as you need based on different types of campaigns and tasks involved.
Check it out:
Want to know more about why checklists are game-changing? Surgeon and author Atul Gawande wrote the book The Checklist Manifesto and spoke about the value of checklists in his TED talk:
If checklists have the power to reduce death rates in hospitals, they can definitely help you hit your marketing goals.
With kanban boards, you can easily keep an eye on all current and upcoming projects. You can supercharge this benefit with additional labeling.
You can use tagging to differentiate your campaigns by:
Get inspired by our set of tags in CoSchedule.
If you have a small team and never more than a dozen cards on your kanban board, you won’t struggle to find them.
But as you and your team grow, that won’t be the case anymore. With a search function, everything will stay a click away no matter how many projects or team members you have.
Your marketing kanban board gives you a linear view of your project workflows, but it doesn’t show you how various projects relate to each other on a calendar. Even campaigns within a same workflow stage could be weeks apart with launch dates.
Look for a tool that allows you to give each card a due date. Remember CoSchedule’s Task Templates from earlier? When your card has a date, tasks on your checklist will also have dates based on how many days before the deadline you need to complete them.
Now you’re ready to get to work and build a kanban board for your marketing team. Here are the steps you can easily follow.
Most successful projects are those you brainstorm, validate, and plan well before they hit the calendar.
Ideas for campaigns can come to you from many directions:
Create a space you can save all ideas without distracting your ongoing work. In CoSchedule, you can use the Idea Board where you can sort your ideas into customized columns.
Use an idea kanban board to flesh out content topics worth pursuing and trash those that aren’t.
Don’t keep your content ideas in your head. When you do, you’re the victim of Zeigarnik effect, which is our tendency to remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than those we completed.
With an idea board, you can unload ideas when they come to you, get back to your work, and triage those ideas later.
Identify the stages in your content workflow. These are the custom statuses your projects (such as blog posts, email campaigns, ebooks) go through.
For example, here are the project statuses you could be working with regularly:
Add all your custom project statuses to a kanban board and arrange them in a chronological way, from left (project beginning) to right (project completion).
Each workflow status has a list of tasks that need to be completed before it can be considered done.
For example, the Draft status could include these tasks:
The Design status might involve the following:
The Edit status could have these tasks:
Project statuses give you a high-level overview of how your project is progressing. Checklists ensure everything gets done on a daily basis.
To create your checklists, take these steps:
Feel free to revise your checklists as you keep using them. For example, you may notice there’s a step that isn’t clear enough, or that it takes longer than you initially determined.
Task Templates in CoSchedule let you assign checklist items and dates to team members in a couple of clicks. All it takes is building a workflow based on project start date or deadline.
Using a kanban method is only efficient if you practice it daily. We touched on meetings earlier—a daily meeting shouldn’t be a waste of time and energy.
Instead, run daily standup meetings for no longer than 15 minutes. In agile marketing teams, these are also referred to as scrum meetings.
For in-person meetings, use one laptop or a meeting room TV to pull up your Kanban Project Dashboard or another kanban tool you’re using.
Then, both for in-person and remote meetings (for example, run over Slack), get everyone to share:
Standup meetings will let you and your team:
With a marketing kanban board, prioritizing the right work and hitting deadlines will become much easier. You’ll have a hyper-focused team that takes ownership of their work and doesn’t get distracted.
Kanban will let you holistically manage projects from start to finish. Like the idea of our Kanban Project Dashboard? Schedule a demo to try it in CoSchedule.
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